Near and dear friends, pull out your calendars and draw a heart in the square for April 5. Make that a heart and an exclamation point. No—a heart and an exclamation point with a smiley face where the dot would be. It’s still our tenth anniversary. Yep. All year. We did it up fancy at AWP, and now we’re bringing the party home. Well, if Covington counts as home—and we say it does. On April 5 eve, hop over the river and meet us at the Leapin’ Lizard Lounge. The fun starts at 7 p.m. and runs till someone spoils it by breakdancing. Funky’s is catering, and Bon Bonerie is providing a cake the size of a private island. We’ll have poetry readings (by Jeff Gundy and Kathleen Winter), musical performances (of CR poems that composers Sarah Hutchings and Steven Weimer wrote scores for), and a dramatic reading (by Ben Dudley and MaryKate Moran) from Declan Greene’s MOTH, which we are in the process of making into a graphic play. Oh—and if you have a great playlist on your iPod, get in touch. We need you. Same if you can drink raw eggs or play bongos with your pegleg.
Archive for the ‘Editors' Dispatches’ Category
We’re thrilled that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C. K. Williams is spending this week in Cincinnati. As the Elliston Poet for the 2013-14 academic year, Williams gave a master class yesterday on “First Drafts, Last Drafts,” illuminating the nuances of his exhaustive revision process. In line with old masters like Horace and Alexander Pope (Horace recommended that poets withhold their work from publication for ten years), Williams equated his practice with the act of being physically beaten—repeatedly—and confessed to spending twenty years on a single piece. As proof, Williams offered several scrawled-on drafts of poems that eventually became “Newark Noir” and “Wall,” both from his most recent collection, Writers Writing Dying (2012). Most striking was the formal recasting Williams performed in each draft, how a meditative lyric like “The Economy Rescued by My Mother Returning to Shop,” for example, began as a brief prose memoir and eventually settled into the sprawling, Whitmanesque lines Williams has become famous for.
Williams will read his poetry at 4:00 this afternoon in the George Elliston Poetry Room, located in Langsam Library 646. This reading is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there.
Nicola Mason: For the last couple of months I’ve been attempting to approach the difficult task of informing our far-flung contributors, readers, and friends about the death of Don Bogen’s wife, Cathryn Long, from inflammatory breast cancer. She passed just before Thanksgiving, and needless to say, inhabiting the world feels vastly different now that Cathryn’s not here to grace it with her sprightly intelligence, her sly wit, her great warmth, and her encompassing curiosity. She could boast a great many triumphs and accomplishments, but she didn’t. Her loss is deeply felt by friends and family in small- and large-scale ways—and, of course, by none more than Don and their two children, Anna and Theo.
Cathryn was a huge supporter of The Cincinnati Review, and even a fan (she read every issue cover to cover and when we met would bring up this story or that essay), but few know that she also generously lent first her eye or ear to poems Don was considering, then her thoughts. Engagement was one of Cathryn’s gifts, and the magazine benefited from her focus on, and passion for, words in specific and creative enterprise in general. For this—and to her—we will always be grateful.
We here in the CR office are all, in a word, short. Brian Trapp, the giant among us, tops out at three foot eight. Needless to say, we rely pretty heavily on Photoshop when posting images of ourselves. But in the spirit of those reveals where celebs appear proudly in unretouched-up photos without makeup, we want to “come out” to CR’s devoted following and show ourselves as we really look.
Just as people with curly hair wish they had the straight stuff and angular people want curves (and vice versa), our diminutive statures make us long for length. Not much we can do about that in the physical sense, but we’ve decided, as strong proponents of placebos, to devote an issue of CR to forms that we can lose ourselves in. You got a poem cycle that circles the globe? Send it. You got a novella nosing through the top of the giraffe house? We’re your mag. The limits (because, well, when are there not limits?): for prose, NO FEWER THAN 10,000 words and NO MORE THAN 35,000 words; and for poetry, works NO FEWER THAN 10 pages in manuscript. Put us on the rack of your writing and give us a good, sustained stretch. Attenuate our attention spans. Gangly up our ganglia. NOTE: When you submit your protracted pieces, be sure to click the category “Longform – Poetry” or “Longform – Prose” in Submission Manager. (That way your submission goes to the right readers right away.)
The Bad: Paper cuts. Unwieldy tape guns. Sitting on the floor criss-cross applesauce for hours on end. Rapid-onset carpal tunnel.
The Good: Subscribers can look for CR 10.2 to magically appear via the still sprightly and efficient United States Postal Service.
The Wonderful: This issue kicks off our tenth-anniversary year and features the printed score of our first art song, from a poem by Kathleen Winter, “Eve, Seducing the Apple” (CR 4.1), composed by Steve Weimer for Mezzo-Soprano, Viola, Violoncello, and Piano.
As poetry editor Don Bogen writes in 10.2, the printed score is appealing even if you don’t read music: “You can see the poem unfolding among the intricate patterns of notes, directions, and blank spaces on the lines.” So if you don’t have it already, order a copy of the stellar 10.2. When it arrives, if you do read music and happen to have a few string players and a piano on hand, do it up. But just in case your reading skills are confined to the literary, we’ve included a performance recorded last winter from musicians at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. This recording features Mezzo-Soprano Chelsea Duval-Major, Cellist Matt Harman, and Violist Zach Saunders. Enjoy.
Click this link to listen: Eve, Seducing the Apple
The blog was silent on Friday to mark the sudden passing of Sarah Richards Doerries, a contributor to our Winter 2008 issue who had been steadily and generously reading CR submissions for more than a year. She volunteered for this work because she loved it, and the editors here looked forward to her informed and lively assessments of the poetry and prose assigned her. Sarah was a longtime friend of Nicola Mason and Michael Griffith. They met in the early ’90s when she came on staff as a graduate assistant at The Southern Review. Sarah went on to publish her poetry and to edit books for many of the top publishing houses in the country, as well as to work and teach at her alma mater, Newcomb College/Tulane University. Her last position was that of editor at the Historic New Orleans Collection, and she was on her way to represent the Collection at the Frankfurt Book Fair when she suffered the brain aneurysm that ended her life. She had a vast intelligence, a nimble wit, a warm heart, and a brilliant spark. We will sorely miss her.
Every now and again, we are moved to laud the exceptional, behind-the-scenes efforts of our pool of trusted readers, who are weekly (yea, even through the “catch up” months of summer) poring over poems and stories and essays, etc., and rendering thoughtful judgments on their strengths and weaknesses. They are busy people with hectic lives, and we do not pay them, yet these intrepid, dedicated humans read on (occasionally taking breaks to apply more deodorant). Below are some random bits of their brain-work. CR submission readers, we (the staff) salute you!
—This feels awfully fresh and unusual, both in content and form. Some stunning language and insightful connections occur in this piece, but it all has a veneer of self-conscious wit that seems to suit it perfectly, as if the author were winking at us.
—I found these obscure but enjoyed figuring them out, and liked them when I did (if indeed I did).
—Though the story feels familiar, the narration and playful form interested me. Humor-tinged despair sharpens the tragedy.
—Not thrilling, but I like the staccato nature of the images, almost like we’re seeing a flash of them all at once.
—Prose is whip smart in most places, though it falters occasionally into cliche. Might be more meditative, but structurally it’s working and it has patient, emotional climax that makes the eyes water.
—These poems have energy/potential, but some of the language seems a bit clunky at times. Another read?
—The allegory is an interesting one, and I liked the prose style at first, but the story was too long to sustain that style and needed pruning.
—Surreal, compelling images, but the poems are either are too obscure and baffling to make a full enough impact or they offer easy, familiar conceits.
—While some scenes have genuine tension and momentum, the writing is needlessly verbose. Certain details seem either to be extraneous and/or out-of-order. This quality often robs the story of narrative momentum, and the conclusion seems to peter out rather than resonate fully.
—Engaging and interesting experiments, but they trail off into obscurity.
—These have a Zach Schomburg feel and are a bit cloying at times, but I still like them (I just don’t like that they want me to like them so much).
Nicola Mason: We here at UC are enjoying an extended visit with Claudia Emerson, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer for her third collection, Late Wife. As our 2013 Elliston Poet-in-Residence, Claudia is teaching and holding conferences with grad students, giving readings and lectures to the literary community, and generally lavishing her delightful company on everyone around. In short, Claudia is lovely beyond lovely—and has been since she was an accomplished but little-known young poet. I know. I was there at the beginning.
I first became aware of Claudia’s work when I was a graduate assistant at Southern Review some twenty years ago. When I got my degree and took a job at LSU Press, I was lucky enough to edit Claudia’s first book, Pharaoh, Pharaoh, which Dave Smith had accepted for his Southern Messenger Poets series. I loved it, and when Dave also took her second book—Pinion: An Elegy—for the series, I asked to edit that one too, and it was an even greater pleasure. I also got to help with the cool cover, which oddly enough was designed by Barbara Bourgoyne, who now designs and typesets CR. Barbara (who also worked—still does—at LSUP) and I visited the musty basement of LSU’s Museum of Natural History, which was filled with giant metal cabinets, the drawers of which held the stretched, preserved wings of hundreds of avian species. Barbara and I pulled out drawer after drawer, pondering the contents, and finally found the perfect wing for Pinion’s cover. We borrowed it, Barbara photographed it, manipulated the image for the jacket, and Claudia was thrilled with the result.
I was already at CR when Late Wife came out, and Claudia was generous enough to send poems to the mag. I forwarded the batch—a terrific selection from her lyric sequence All Girls School (later published in her collection Figure Studies)—to Don Bogen, who was delighted with them and took every one. The day after he sent his letter of acceptance, Claudia was awarded the Pulitzer. Another odd intersection between my life and Claudia’s: Shortly after Pharaoh, Pharaoh came out, she took a position at Mary Washington College—my alma mater—and teaches there still.
Needless to say, it is gratifying to have played a small role in the career of such an outstanding poet and person—and to see her early promise borne out in a big way. If you’re nearby, you too can cross paths with Claudia Emerson. She lectures this Friday afternoon, April 5, on UC’s campus (Elliston Poetry Room, 646 Langsam Library).
Nicola Mason: An obvious blog post presented itself to me this week, courtesy of two lovely Facebook friends. Friend One reported with delight that he had finally used the word “Cthulhu” in a poem. Friend Two linked to Grammarly’s “Tips for Writing Better.”
Friend One’s status I immediately liked. (I mean, how cool is “Cthulhu”?) On Friend Two’s, I commented: “I object to [Tip] number 6,” which reads, “Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.”
Because: Why limit yourself to “diminutive alternatives” when there’s so much big, beautiful verbiage out there? Polysyllabic words, obscure words, and odd, striking usages of familiar words lend both heft and luster to the language. Not to mention flexibility. (Who doesn’t want options when it comes to conveying something that means . . . well, something. Nuance is all!) Perhaps most important, rare words can increase not just our knowledge (raise your hand if you’re about to google Cthulhu!) but our ways of thinking, of linking ideas. Moreover, they’re just plain sources of delight—at least for the CR staff.
I therefore offer you some words in our current issue that surprised, delighted, and confounded us. (Yes, we had to look up some of them—and it was fun.)
Don Bogen: The latest annual Best American Poetry anthology is just out, and The Cincinnati Review is keeping up its tradition of being well represented. Five of our contributors let us know their poems had been accepted and were duly praised on the website, but it turns out there were actually seven poems from our pages in the anthology. I guess we made the same mistake as Wordsworth, but, as far as I know, none of our contributors is lying in the churchyard. Here they are:
Julianna Baggott, “For Furious Nursing Baby”
Joseph Chapman, “Sparrow”
Joy Katz, “Death Is Something Entirely Else”
James Kimbrell, “How to Tie a Knot”
Eric Pankey, “Sober Then Drunk Again”
Dean Rader, “Self-Portrait as Dido to Aeneas”
Don Russ, “Girl with Gerbil”
Now for some stats: Seven is a record for us–we are tied with The New Yorker for the highest number of poems in the anthology. Since this year’s edition includes seventy-five poems from forty different journals, The Cincinnati Review is coming in at just under 10% of the total work in the anthology. Of literary magazines associated with colleges and universities, our closest competitor is New England Review with four poems; The Gettysburg Review had two poems, The Southern Review and The Kenyon Review a poem each. Congratulations to the poets we’ve published, to the grad-student volunteers who read for us, to Managing Editor Nicola Mason, and to the Assistant and Associate Editors involved in the two issues from which work was chosen: Peter Grimes, Heather Hamilton, Christian Moody, and Matt McBride. Great job, all!